NEW ORLEANS (CBS Newspath/WVUE/AP) — Officials in New Orleans Sunday set off a series of explosions designed to topple two cranes that had been looming over the ruins of a partially collapsed hotel.
The demolition took place Sunday afternoon, a little more than a week after the collapse of the Hard Rock Hotel that was being built near the city’s historic French Quarter. Loud blasts reverberated through the area as the cranes fell.
Most of one crane appeared to be left dangling atop the ruined building while the other crashed down.
The explosions set off massive clouds of dust. After the dust cleared, part of one crane could be seen hanging over the building while the end of one of the cranes, which was partially obstructed by New Orleans’ landmark Saenger Theater, fell to the ground.
The two cranes sustained significant damage when the hotel’s upper floors collapsed onto each other on October 12. Three workers died in the collapse and two bodies are still in the wreckage.
Officials had feared earlier the cranes would come down on their own, possibly hitting nearby buildings or severely damaging underground gas and electric lines.
Mayor LaToya Cantrell said recovering the remains of two people inside the building’s wreckage would be a priority once the cranes are down.
Officials Sunday evacuated people from areas close to the demolition and had a wider exclusion zone in which people must remain indoors during the explosion. City services such as electricity, gas, water, and sewer were shut off in the evacuation zone.
Officials have repeatedly stressed the fluidity of the situation and that they are adjusting as necessary, depending on the information they are getting from experts on the scene.
On Saturday, workers suspended in a basket held by a crane could be seen high over the wreckage, working on the cranes. Down below, streets in one of the busiest parts of town were closed off and tents were set up in the center of Canal Street, where the city’s famous red streetcars usually roll back and forth.
Tourists, employees and residents milled about taking photos, but officials stressed that they do not want people approaching the site to watch the demolition.
“We prefer people to not be out here when this thing happens,” said Fire Chief Tim McConnell. “It’s a dangerous operation.”
The cause of the collapse remains unknown. Cantrell and McConnell said evidence gathering began soon after the collapse, and lawsuits have already been filed against the project’s owners and contractors.
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